Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All in the Family

I’ve written a lot on this blog about how lucky we are to have Max. And of course that’s true in spades. But Max is a pretty lucky kid too. And one reason is his 14 first cousins. Yes, you read that right – Max has 14 first cousins, and they are all amazingly wonderful to Max – be it his 15 month old cousin Greyson or his 22 year old cousin Noah, or any of the 12 kids in-between.

Max isn't the only one my nieces and nephews like to carry!
I was reminded of this fact last week during Thanksgiving. That is my favorite holiday because it is the one time all year that I know I will get to see all 14 nieces and nephews, not to mention their parents and grandparents – comprising of my parents, siblings and in-laws. This is no mean feat. After all, we all live in three different states, several of my nephews and nieces are off at college, and several more are busy teenagers immersed in all sorts of time-sucking high school activities and sports. So when we do get everybody together – like at Thanksgiving – I am particularly grateful, and I simply cannot get over how amazingly well my nephews and nieces get along with one another. They are an incredibly close set of cousins. Despite many of them being in the traditionally aloof “too cool for school” tween and teenage years, they are clearly very affectionate with one another and genuinely care about, and are interested in, each other’s lives.

Cousins Hannah A. and Ben

But I am particularly touched and grateful for how nurturing they are with Max. At one point during Thanksgiving, my sister Rebecca took Max from us for what was intended to be a couple of minutes. When she came back empty-handed, she quickly dispelled our knee-jerk concern by explaining that our nephews and nieces had spotted her with Max and literally lined up to take turns holding him once Rebecca was through. The fact that Max was being passed around like a hot potato from one set of capable arms to another not only made our nieces and nephews happy, but made us happy too. For one, it gave us the rare opportunity to hang out and chat with people unencumbered by the demands of the baby. More importantly, though, it demonstrated just how fortunate Max is to have so many people around him who are interested in him and care for his well-being.

At Max's bris with his cousins (l-r) Ben, Sarah and Josh

Max has a cousin Luke, my sister’s 4 year-old, who spent much of his Thanksgiving playing games with his 10 year old niece Rachel. Now, all he can talk about is getting together with her again so that they can continue their games. Knowing that someday soon that will be Max demanding more time to spend with his favorite nieces and nephews, because they are so good to him, simply warms my heart. 

Cousins Rachel and Luke play at Thanksgiving

I get particularly emotional when it comes to Max and his best-bud cousins because I wasn’t quite as fortunate growing up. While, like Max, I am a youngest cousin who grew up with many older cousins, I did not experience the closeness with them that Max already seems to have with his cousins. In fact, I was very jealous of my older brothers and sisters. I am the youngest by 5 years, with a 15 year gap between my eldest brother and me, and my siblings had cousins on both sides of the family who were either the same age as they were or pretty close to their age, while I did not. Therefore, to my kid eyes it seemed like my siblings had, in our cousins, built-in friends for holidays and other family gatherings through which they could forge close relationships. For example, some of my siblings went to summer camp with their cousins and some of them would visit my grandparents in Florida together. When I was little, and my whole family would go up to my mom’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, I would be very jealous because all of my brothers and sisters seem to have playmates except for me.

Cousin Hannah D. introduces a skeptical Max to the ocean

One part of parenting that we always hear recited is that we want for our kids what we wish we had for ourselves growing up. That certainly applies here. I know Max will be close to all of his cousins in a way I wasn’t growing up with mine (though I am very fortunate to have since gotten close to them). Max is only a few months younger than his cousin Greyson, less than two years younger than his cousin Tyler, and less than four years younger than his cousin “little Luke” (Esther’s boy, as opposed to “big Luke”, Stewart’s sister’s oldest son). These three kids will be like older brothers to Max, showing him the ropes and most definitely getting him into trouble!

Max flanked by cousins Tyler (l) and Greyson (r)

But not only that, I truly feel that Max will develop close relationships with his older cousins as well, and will look tremendously forward to seeing them at family occasions, and hopefully even more frequently than that. And given the significant age difference, that means a lot to me. These kids have a million “cooler” activities that they can pursue rather than spend part of their holiday looking after their slobbering mess of a 6 month old cousin, Max. The fact that they line up for the opportunity to do so speaks volumes about their character. Stewart and I should be so lucky that Max learns to emulate them. They are a special, special bunch. 


  1. Nice! I like hearing what goes on in that brain of yours! One of the nicest things I've heard of, said to a small child from his mother at a large family event is, "Look how many people love you."